The Role of the “Coalition of the Willing” in the Violation of International Law and Universal Human

Mar 09

Honorable members of the Jury of Conscience and members of the Panel of Advocates:

My brief here today is to outline and detail the
specific charges against the "Coalition of the Willing" assembled by
the United States government to support its aggression in Iraq. The
case against the prime aggressor, the United States, has been laid out
by other advocates. I will limit my statements to other members of the
Coalition, including the US's main partner, the government of the
United Kingdom.

The responsibility of the Coalition of the Willing
for the invasion, occupation, and destruction of Iraq is that of a
willing accomplice. The degree of guilt of course varies, but all the
50 countries that make up this front stand collectively condemned for
providing legitimacy to a fundamental violation of international law:
the invasion of a sovereign country. Thus all governments participating
in this formation must be held accountable and arraigned before the
appropriate international legal bodies for prosecution, conviction,
sentencing, and assessment of reparations to the Iraqi people.

Coalition of the Willing-What, Who, Why?

The "Coalition of the Willing" was announced by US
Secretary of State Colin Powell shortly before the March 20, 2003
invasion, after the US decided not to push through the famous Second
Resolution authorizing war in the United Nations Security Council. At
its height in March 2004, the Coalition had about 50 members, including
the United States. Thirty four of these had troops deployed in Iraq.
Various factors – most prominently, armed attacks at home, the
activities of the Iraqi resistance, political pressure from citizens,
and international embarrassment – caused 15 countries to withdraw
troops as of March 2005. Currently, there are about 23,900 non-US
Coalition forces in Iraq, compared to the US contingent of about
130,000 troops.

What reasons did governments have for joining the
Coalition? These varied. Despite his coming from an ideological and
political background different from US President George Bush's, Labor
Prime Minister Tony Blair truly appeared to believe in externally
imposed "regime change" in Iraq. Much more understandable was the
support of Bush's ideological fellow travelers Jose Maria Aznar of
Spain and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, the latter of whom was notorious
for having declared that "[T]he West will continue to conquer peoples,
even if it means a confrontation with another civilization, Islam,
firmly entrenched where it was 1,400 years ago."

For Japan and Korean governments, the rationale
obviously was obviously a quid pro quo for the US military umbrella in
their countries. Most of the other governments were, as one commentator
described it, a veritable "opera bouffe of tiny states" that were
either strong-armed or bribed with promises of fat post-war contracts
or economic aid by Washington.

The Coalition's Basic Function: Deodorizing an Illegitimate Act

Whatever were their intentions, the members of the
Coalition of theWilling were used by the United States to provide
legitimacy for the invasion and occupation of an independent country,
thus making them accomplices in a massive violation of international
law. Statements from members of the Coalition backing the US invasion
were widely propagated by Washington to defuse the criticism of its
patently illegal action. A sample of the official statements of these
governments circulated by Washington prior to and following the
invasion reveal the extent to which they allowed the United States
government to manipulate them to justify an illegal and unprovoked war.
The statements came word-for-word from Washington's published rationale
for the war:

"Saddam Hussein is a danger to law and peace. Hence the
Netherlands gives political support to the action against Saddam
Hussein which has been started." (Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende,
20 March 2003)
"The Philippines is part of the coalition of the
willing…We are giving political and moral support for actions to rid
Iraq of the weapons of mass destruction. We are part of a long-standing
security alliance. We are part of the global coalition against
terrorism." (President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, 19 March 2003)
"At a
time when diplomatic efforts have failed to resolve the Iraqi problem
peacefully, I believe that action is inevitable to quickly remove
weapons of mass destruction. Koreans tend to join forces when things
get tough." (President Roh, 20 March 2003)
"The cabinet sitting
under the chairmanship of HE Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda,
on 21 March 2003, decided to support the US-led coalition to disarm
Iraq by force. The cabinet also decided that if need arises, Uganda
will assist in any way possible." (Minister of Foreign Affairs James
Wapakhabulo, 24 March 2003)
"The responsibility falls exclusively on
the Iraqi regime and its obstinacy in not complying with the
resolutions of the United Nations for the last 12 years…On this
difficult hour, Portugal reaffirms its support to his Allies, with whom
it shares the values of Liberty and Democracy, and hopes that this
operation will be as short as possible and that it will accomplish all
its objectives." (Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, 20 March

Coalition Participation in the Occupation

The following 34 countries stand accused of active
participation in the invasion and occupation of Iraq through the
deployment of troops: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan,
Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador,
Estonia, Georgia, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia,
Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua,
Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain,
Thailand, Tonga, United Kingdom, and Ukraine. 25 of these 34 countries
continue to maintain security forces in the country. Some of these
countries, such as Spain and the Philippines, have now withdrawn their
troops or police forces, and others, such as the Netherlands, Ukraine,
Bulgaria, and Italy, have began or announced the phased withdrawal of
their contingents. All, however, should nevertheless be held
accountable for having concretely assisted in the US occupation.

The following countries, while they did not deploy
troops, are accused of complicity in the violation of the sovereignty
and territorial integrity of Iraq by joining the Coalition of the
Willing: Afghanistan, Angola, Colombia, Costa Rica, Eritrea, Ethiopia,
Iceland, Kuwait, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Rwanda,
Singapore, Solomon Islands, Uganda, and Uzbekistan.

Table 1: Troop Contingents in Iraq by Country of Origin, March 2004


No. of troops

United States


United Kingdom
























El Salvador


Dominican Republic




















Czech Republic








New Zealand












Source: "Coalition of the Willing", Perspectives on World History and Current Events, 19 June 2004


Among the Coalition members, the role and
responsibility of the following must be highlighted: United Kingdom,
Italy, and Spain. The United Kingdom played a major role in the
invasion, and together with Italy and Spain, provided the leadership
role in the Coalition in the first months of the occupation. Since then
this leadership has faltered: Spain broke ranks by withdrawing troops
in February 2005, after the Madrid bombing, and the Berlusconi
government in Italy has announced its plan to begin withdrawing troops
beginning in September 2005, following the controversial killing of an
Italian government agent by US soldiers at a checkpoint in March 2005.

Japan and South Korea's role and responsibility must
also be singled out. The two countries gave an "Asian" face to the
occupation, and with its 3,600 troops, South Korea today maintains the
third largest military presence in Iraq, after the United States and
the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom's Special Burden of Guilt

Aside from the United States, it is the government
of the United Kingdom that clearly must bear the burden of guilt among
the Coalition of the Willing. Since others in the panel of advocates
are focusing on the United States, I will confine my coments to the
United Kingdom.

Participating in the Planning of the War

The recently revealed Downing Street Memos show that
as early as April 2002, the Labor leadership was aware that 1) the Bush
administration was keen to invade Iraq; 2) that it was determined to do
this on the issue of Saddam's possession of weapons of mass
destruction; and 3) that the evidence of Saddam's ability to develop
weapons of mass destruction was tenuous. As one Foreign Office memo
dated March 22, 2002, addressed to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw put it,
"The truth is that what has changed is not the pace of Saddam Hussein's
WMD programs, but our tolerance of them post-11 September." It
continued: "But even the best survey of WMD programs will not show much
advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile, or CW/BW (chemical or
biological weapons) fronts: the programs are extremely worrying but
have not, as far as we know, been stepped up."

Despite the fragility of the evidence for the
existence of weapons of mass destruction, however, Prime Minister Tony
Blair beat the drums for war on the WMD argument. At around the same
time that the Downing Street memos were questioning the WMD evidence,
Blair told the House of Commons on April 10, 2002: "Saddam Hussein's
regime is despicable, he is developing weapons of mass destruction, and
we cannot leave him doing so unchecked."

On September 24, 2002, again contradicting the lack
of evidence, he declared: "It [the intelligence service] concludes that
Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, that Saddam has continued to
produce them, that he has existing and active military plans for the
use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated in 45
minutes, including his own Shia population; and that he is actively
trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability."

On February 25, 2003, in the lead-up to the
invasion: "The intelligence is clear: (Saddam) continues to believe his
WMD programme is essential both for internal repression and for
external aggression." In the same speech, he asserted: "The biological
agents we believe Iraq can produce include anthrax, botolium, toxin,
aflatoxin, and ricin. All eventually result in excruciatingly painful

Then on the very day of invasion, March 20, 2003,
Blair said: "If the only means of achieving the disarmament of Iraq of
weapons of mass destruction is the removal of the regime, then the
removal of the regime has to be our objective."

It now appears that concerted effort by the Blair
government to produce evidence of Iraq's possession of WMD led to the
doctoring or, as the British Broadcasting Corporation report put it,
the "sexing up" of the British intelligence services' 50-page dossier
on Saddam's alleged WMD program released in September 2002. This
dossier served as one of the key British government documents to make
the case for war. Caught in the crossfire between pressure from the
government and the slimness of the evidence, senior government
scientist Dr. David Kelley, a former WMD inspector in Iraq, revealed to
the press his strong doubts about the dossier's allegations,
particularly the claim that Iraq could activate WMDs within 45 minutes.
This apparently triggered government pressure on him that eventually
led to his suicide in July 2003.

The Downing Street memos also indicate that even as
the WMD evidence was thin or nonexistent, the Blair government was
strongly for invading Iraq to institute "regime change," though that
was not something it could trumpet publicly for that would come across
as advocating a clear breach of international law. Indeed, as early as
March or April 2002, a time that the Blair government and the Bush
administration say they were not engaged in war planning, they were
already at an advance stage in the process. While the British
government was not convinced of the threat of WMD, the memos reveal
that it shared the Bush administration's desire for regime change
through military means.

One memo in mid-March 2002 details a letter from
Christopher Meyer, then British Ambassador to the United Nations, on a
lunch discussion he had with then US Undersecretary of Defense Paul
Wolfowitz. "We backed regime change," he wrote, "but the plan had to be
clever and failure was not an option. It would be a tough sell for us
domestically, and probably tougher elsewhere in Europe." At the same
time, British officials knew that regime change per se could not be
invoked as an objective for invasion. As a March 8, 2002 memo sketching
out options for dealing with Iraq noted, "an invasion for the purpose
of regime change "has no basis under international law." The dilemma
and the solution to it was stated over two weeks later by Foreign
Secretary Jack Straw: "Regime change per se is no justification for
military action; it could form part of any strategy, but not a goal,"
he said. "Elimination of Iraq's WMD capacity has to be the goal." Not
surprisingly, the Blair government embarked on a course of
manufacturing a nonexistent threat, culminating in the infamous
September 25, 2002 dossier that became the key document propagated by
Washington and London to justify the impending invasion of Iraq.

When all is said and done, it is clear that it was
mainly Tony Blair, against the wishes of the vast majority of the
British people and a significant section of his party, that brought the
United Kingdom to the war. Why? Some commentators say that he really
did believe in the morality of externally imposed regime change, which
makes him, like Bush, a very dangerous man indeed. Others would
discount morality and say that Blair was in fact motivated by cold
realpolitik. My sense is that, along with a warped morality, this is a
likely motivation: that is, the desire to put the British government at
the center of global power alongside the United States. As he once
asserted, "It's my job to protect and project British power."

Carrying out the War

In addition to its role in planning the war, the
British government's conduct of the war in Iraq clearly reveals its
disregard for international law and universally recognized human
rights. The invasion of the country was preceded by a bombing campaign
that began approximately 10 months before, in May 2002. Jets of the
Royal Air Force joined United States Air Force jets in what were called
"spikes of activity" designed to goad the Saddam Hussein regime into
retaliating and thus providing the pretext for war. These actions,
which were justified by US officials such as Allied Commander General
Tommy Franks as necessary to "degrade" Iraq's air defenses were not
authorized by any United Nations resolution. Indeed, as the leaked
Downing Street memos reveal, the British Foreign Office provided legal
opinion in March 2002-two months before the intensification of the
bombing – that asserted that allied aircraft were legally entitled to
patrol the no-fly zones over the north and south of Iraq only to deter
attacks by Saddam's forces on the Kurdish and Shia populations and had
no authority to put pressure of any kind on the regime. This illegal
activity was further intensified at the end of August 2002, following a
meeting of the US National Security Council where its purpose was
revealed to be that of making Iraq's air defenses as weak as possible
for a possible invasion.

Since the invasion took place, Britain has sent some
65,000 British troops, or almost a third of the armed forces, to
participate in an illegal war unauthorized by the United Nations. About
8,761 were stationed there as of March 2005.

The main assignment for the British troops was to
secure the southern sector, notably the city of Basra. That campaign
was marked by the deaths of scores of Iraqi civilians. Some of the
deaths were caused by the use of cluster bombs, known to be deadly to
civilian populations. Although officials at the British Ministry of
Defense initially pledged not to use the weapons "in and around Basra,"
Human Rights Watch documented several strikes using cluster munitions
in the neighborhoods of that city. At the height of military operations
in March and April 2003, British forces used 70 air-launched and 2100
ground launched cluster munitions, containing 113,190 submunitions.
Total US and British use came to 13,000 cluster munitions and 2 million
submunitions in that period.

Human Rights Watch also accused British military
authorities of failing to secure large caches of abandoned Iraqi Army
weapons, resulting in civilians being killed or wounded. Basra's
al-Jumhuriyya Hospital was receiving five victims of unsecured ordnance
a day, leading Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth to
declare: "Britain failed in its duty as an occupying power to provide
security to local civilians. Its inability or unwillingness to secure
abandoned weapons made a dangerous situation even more dangerous."

Foreign occupation invites systematic abuses of
human rights. This has been the case of the US Occupation in central
and northern Iraq. Abu Ghraib prison has become a synonym for
violations of the Geneva Convention, torture as a policy, and
systematic sexual abuse, while the American retaking of Fallujah in
November-December 2004 has become a contemporary version of the
implementation of the harsh Roman order "Carthago delenda est"
("Carthage must be destroyed.")

The British occupation of the Basra and southern
Iraq, while being less in the glare of publicity than the US
occupation, has also been marked by violations of basic human rights.
One year of occupation yielded numerous cases of the killing and
wounding of civilians by British troops. Amnesty International reports
that as of early March 2004, British authorities admitted that UK
forces had been involved in the killing of 37 civilians. They
acknowledged, however, that the figure was not comprehensive. In a
number of cases investigated by Amnesty, "UK soldiers opened fire and
killed Iraqi civilians in circumstances where was apparently no threat
of death or serious injury to themselves or others." Amnesty found that
the British Royal Military Police (RMP) was "highly secretive
and…provided families with little or no information about the
progress or conclusions of investigations." Moreover, the process of
gaining reparations by families of victims was grossly inadequate,
plagued by inconsistencies, over-bureaucratic, and practically
inaccessible to poor Iraqis.

Torture and sexual abuse of prisoners have been
another black mark on the British Occupation. In January 2005, photos
were released in the national press depicting torture and systematic
abuse of Iraqis by soldiers belonging to the lst battalion of the Royal
Regiment of Fusiliers. As described in one report, "One of the
photographs showed a grimacing Iraqi civilian bound tightly in an army
cargo net being suspended from a forklift truck driven by a British
soldier. A second depicted a soldier dressed in shorts and a T-shirt
standing on the bound and tied body of an Iraqi civilian. Other
pictures showed two naked Iraqi men being forced to simulate anal sex
and two Iraqis forced to simulate oral sex."

The soldiers were court-martialed, leading to a jail
sentence and expulsion from the army of some of them. There was a grave
miscarriage of justice at the trial, however, since evidence from the
victims was not allowed in court, which could have led to harsher
sentences or the implication of many more soldiers, including
higher-ups. The evidence included that of the Iraqi in the forklift
incident, Hassan Abdul-Hussein, who said that he was tied and strung up
when he refused to sever another Iraqi's finger with a knife. Why was
the evidence inadmissible? The honorable Phil Shiner, who is also part
of this panel of advocates, has claimed that the purpose was, as in the
case of the abuses at Abu Ghraib, damage limitation: "Here there is the
clearest evidence that the military are incapable of prosecuting and
investigating themselves. If they are allowed to, all we get is a
whitewash and a few bad apples thrown to the dogs. Clearly, here
something as gone badly wrong, officers were involved and a whole lot
of people were abused."

With British soldiers themselves participating in
the abuse of civilians, it is not surprising that they failed to
provide security, as they were required to by international law. Like
other parts of the country, Basra and other sites in southern Iraq have
witnessed "scores, possibly hundreds, of people…deliberately killed
by individuals or armed groups for political reasons, including for
perceived moral infractions such as selling or buying alcohol."
However, virtually no investigation or prosecution of these killing had
occurred as of early 2004. Thus Amnesty considered the UK military
authorities as in breach of its international obligations under Article
27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which mandates the UK as an
occupying power to provide protection for Iraqis, especially from
threats and acts of violence.

With the occupation provoking the rise of an armed
resistance in 2003 and 2004, British troops were dragged in to support
US military operations in central Iraq. The most notorious instance of
indirect British support for US efforts to crush the Iraqi people's
resistance took place in November 2004, when the 850-strong Black Watch
Regiment was moved from southern Iraq to the Babil Province, south of
Baghdad. The redeployment followed a request from US military
authorities who wanted to use the US military units freed up for the
assault on the city of Fallujah that was to be launched after the US
elections. The move provoked former British Foreign Minister Robin Cook
to speak about "the suspicion that we sent a third of the British army
to Iraq not in pursuit of our own national interest but in support of
the White House's political agenda. This latest twist to the tale
confirms the perception that it is Washington that calls the shots and
Britain that jumps to attention. It is equally obvious that the request
was the product of US politics." The ensuing US assault on Fallujah was
marked by hundreds of civilian deaths, thousands of people injured,
routine violations of human rights by American soldiers such as the
killing of wounded prisoners, and massive destruction of property. By
redeploying British troops to release American soldiers for the savage
attack, Mr. Blair's government must take some responsibility for the
ensuing war crimes.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The record of the Coalition of the Willing in Iraq
is a sordid and sorry one. The Coalition tried to do the impossible:
provide legitimacy to a glaring and unjustifiable violation of
international law: the invasion of Iraq, an act that must rank as low
in terms of ignominy and infamy as the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939.
The 50 members of the Coalition of the Willing have performed for the
US today what the Romanian, Hungarian, and Italian fascist states did
for Nazi Germany in the latter's aggressive and brutal conquest of
Eastern Europe during the Second World War. Thus the Coalition must be
seen as complicit not only in the violation of Iraqi sovereignty but
also in the systematic violation of human rights, political rights, and
economic rights that is the main feature of the US and British
Occupation of that country today.

Among Coalition members, the role of the government
of the United Kingdom must be especially condemned. The Blair
government's role cannot be reduced to that of being a reluctant
partner of the Bush administration. It cannot be reduced to that of a
supporter that merely provides convenient cover for the aggressor. The
Blair government actively participated in the preparations and conduct
of the war. It committed a third of the British army to the invasion
and occupation, and went to war willingly-gleefully some would say in
the case of Prime Minister Blair. Mr. Blair's behavior went beyond that
of a cheerleader to that of being one of the main apologists for the
war, trying to convince the world that an immoral and illegal act was a
moral one. Like Bush and like Hitler, he is, as we said earlier, a
dangerous man.

Harsh censure by this body must be meted to all
members of the Coalition, including those which did not deploy troops
to Iraq. For those that deployed troops to Iraq in support of the US
war, the appropriate punishment is to be arraigned before international
legal bodies for prosecution for complicity in the breach of
international law and internationally recognized human rights.
Officials of the British government, in particular Prime Minister
Anthony Blair, must be given top priority for prosecution, alongside
President George Bush and other civilian and military leaders of the US
government in the appropriate legal institutions, in particular the
International Criminal Court.

The war criminals, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, must be brought to trial, and soon.
I thank you. 

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